Abdirashid oversees the prosecution of Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) and Juvenile crimes, and he is proud to lead an all-female team of eight prosecutors and assistants working to bring justice to survivors.
Meanwhile, over 1,000 km away, in the island nation of the Seychelles, Marie-Antoinette Gedeon demonstrates how female leadership is keeping communities safer. Admittedly empathic, attentive and solution-oriented, she employs characteristics often assigned to women as a strength that has helped her steadily ascend the ranks.
After quitting her job in pharmaceutics, the 41-year-old mother of two joined the police force as a sergeant before climbing her way up the ladder. She says that her roles as a “mother, wife and woman” allow her to “bring unique strengths to police work, such as empathy and understanding”.
Although the Seychelles and Somalia face starkly different security threats, both Marie-Antoinette and Abdirashid are joined in their belief that integrating women into the security response is essential to keeping communities safer. And their two countries are not the only one facing security threats.
Across East Africa, a plethora of terrorist groups operate, actively targeting civilian populations, including women and girls. Responding to these crimes effectively, then, necessitates a gender approach.
Research demonstrates that there are widespread benefits to increasing the participation of women in law enforcement. The development of gender-sensitive approaches to countering terrorism is proven to yield positive results, as women offer different strengths and approaches to terrorism prevention responses than their male counterparts.
Studies show that female officers increase public trust, address the needs of women and girls in their communities, help prevent radicalization, respond better to gender-based crimes, and decrease corruption.
And according to the Executive Directorate of the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Committee (UNCTED), women bring a diversity of perspectives and can engage a wider range of stakeholders who may otherwise be inaccessible. This, in turn, enhances the efficacy of early warning and identification of potential threats.
Beyond research, however, practitioners in the field, such as Abdirashid, are calling for gender mainstreaming to become the norm: “Due to our religion and customs, increasing the role of women in our approach is crucial,” says the experienced prosecutor.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) stands firmly by this principle and is actively working with counterparts in Eastern Africa to mainstream gender into their policies and operations.
Supporting gender mainstreaming
In August 2023, UNODC and the East African Police Chief’s Cooperation Organization (EAPCCO) convened a workshop in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia dedicated to mainstreaming gender in counter terrorism responses.
Participants from 11 East African states learned from other countries’ unique challenges and their individual responses to terrorism, while recommendations were formulated for the inclusion of gender in terrorism prevention policy.
Amid diversity in the cultural, political and security make up of Eastern Africa, a common goal stood out: the need to protect citizens from the reality of terrorism. While terrorism's impact varies across the region, and indeed the world, no country is immune from its expanding reach.
“These kinds of workshops make us more prepared for the threat of terrorism – we are not excluded from it [in the Seychelles],” said Marie-Antoinette.
Beyond the calls of individual law enforcement officers and prosecutors, EAPCCO, including regional Chiefs of Police and the organization’s Gender Sub-committee, acknowledges the need for concerted efforts to mainstream gender in countering terrorism and is actively working towards that goal.
This training was made possible thanks to funding from the German government.